Mikansei No 1 Volume 2 by Majiko!
After reading the second and final volume of this series, I’ve concluded that it just isn’t for me. Neo and Saya continue to pursue their musical dreams with their Clap=* band. Neo’s friends in the future are determined to get her back through a more functional time portal. Neo has to decide between her life in the 23rd century and her current dreams of stardom in the 21st century. Overall, the art is too cutesy for my taste, and the humor which relies heavily on random cross dressing and pratfalls isn’t very funny. I never really cared about the relationship between Neo and her singing partner Saya. With most manga I tend to read a volume in one or two sittings. I picked up and put down Mikansei No 1 five or six times. I wouldn’t recommend this series for anyone above the age of 13, there’s just not enough there to capture the interest of someone wanting a little more from their manga reading experience.
Animal Academy Volume 4 by Moyamu Fujino
In contrast, Animal Academy continues to be an interesting series even though it is aimed at a younger reader (the publisher rates it as 10+). Neko is struggling with being left behind as the only secret human at a high school where animals study humanity closely. Neko’s new friend Yuuichi escapes the school through a portal and she misses him terribly. Neko’s still dealing with the mysteries of the seemingly sentient student handbook and snake imagery seems to keep popping up in her life. She suffers a crisis of faith about her new high school life and decides to return home. Her new friends aren’t going to let her give up so easily.
There’s an element of suspense in Animal Academy that makes it much more sophisticated than you’d expect. The strained relationship between the brothers Sasuke and Yuusuke, the knowledge and motivations of the teachers at the academy, and Neko’s struggles to understand some of the magical things that happen at school all combine to create an aura of mystery that takes the book a step beyond the magical boarding school genre that it represents. While I might quibble a bit with the young-looking character designs, Fujino’s art does a very capable job with characters who frequently switch forms. She maintains the feeling of the characters’ personalities and expressions when they are in human or animal form. It is tough to find manga that might be appropriate for school libraries, but I think Animal Academy would be a good fit for most collections.
Review copies provided by the publisher.